Vertigo according to Chinese Medicine

Vertigo can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like vertigo here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here vertigo is often associated with dizziness, tinnitus and insomnia in the pattern “Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause vertigo.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of vertigo we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat vertigo.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause vertigo

In Chinese Medicine vertigo is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Wiry (Xian), Fine (Xi), Floating (Fu)

Tongue color: Red

Liver Yang Rising can create Interior Wind if the condition is not treated for a long time. It can be divided to three categories based on the cause of the pattern: Liver Yin Deficiency, Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency or Liver Blood Deficiency.

In addition to vertigo, other symptoms associated with Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising include dizziness, tinnitus and insomnia.

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to vertigo, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, palpitations and late period.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Si Wu Tang, a formula used for Blood Deficiency

Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

Someone has a Deficiency of Blood when their entire body, a part of body or a particular Organ is insufficiently nourished by Blood.

This can be caused by blood-loss, a lack of of Spleen Qi (responsible to produce Blood) or congealed Blood which prevents new Blood from forming.

In addition to vertigo, other symptoms associated with Blood Deficiency include dizziness, palpitations and insomnia.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Blood Deficiency is often treated with Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Si Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Restores and nourishes Blood".

Read more about Blood Deficiency here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

In addition to vertigo, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and dry mouth.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

The Triple Burner is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Triple Burner in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm in the Lower Burner

In addition to vertigo, other symptoms associated with Phlegm in the Lower Burner include shortness of breath, throbbing pulsations just below the umbilicus and vomiting frothy saliva.

Phlegm in the Lower Burner is often treated with Wu Ling San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Water Plantain - Ze Xie - as a key herb). Wu Ling San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes urination,".

Read more about Phlegm in the Lower Burner here

Five herbal formulas that might help with vertigo

Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin

Source date: 1958 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Calms the Liver. Extinguishes wind. Invigorates the blood. Clears heat. Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys.

Why might Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin help with vertigo?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising' of which vertigo is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Wind Agitating Internally Due To Liver Yang Rising include dizziness, tinnitus and insomnia.

Read more about Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin here

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Warms and transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Strengthens the Spleen. Resolves Dampness.

Why might Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang help with vertigo?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which vertigo is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Morning Sickness.

Read more about Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang here

Wu Ling San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes urination,. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Promotes Qi transformation function. Drains Dampness. Clears edema.

Why might Wu Ling San help with vertigo?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in the Lower Burner' of which vertigo is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm In The Lower Burner include shortness of breath, throbbing pulsations just below the umbilicus and vomiting frothy saliva.

Read more about Wu Ling San here

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with vertigo?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Deficiency' of which vertigo is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Blood Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Late Menstruation.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Why might Qi Ju Di Huang Wan help with vertigo?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which vertigo is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and dry mouth.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat vertigo

Why might Abalone Shell (Shi Jue Ming) help with vertigo?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat vertigo and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat vertigo as a symptom (such as Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin for instance).

Abalone Shells is a Cold herb that tastes Salty. It targets the Kidney, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and calms ascending Liver Yang. Clears Liver Heat that is obstructing the vision.

Read more about Abalone Shells here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with vertigo?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat vertigo as a symptom, like Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Wu Ling San for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with vertigo?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat vertigo as a symptom, like Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang or Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with vertigo?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat vertigo as a symptom, like Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang or Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with vertigo?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat vertigo as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here